Somebody save Ryan Miller. Please. Let him go. Today. Get the #freeMiller hashtag going on Twitter. Let Tuesday’s 43-save masterpiece against the Los Angeles Kings be our wonderful last memory of him in Blue and Gold.
Let Miller get ready to go to Sochi by playing behind a real team. I believe in the folks picking Team USA. They’re hockey people. They’re shaking their heads at what’s going on down in Dysfunction Junction like all of us.
Miller has to be having the best season in NHL history, or at least in this dead puck era, for a guy who has a 3.28 goals-against average. He’s second in the NHL in saves (490) and shots against (535) and has cobbled out a .916 save percentage despite having the NHL’s worst team in front of him.
Miller was dead-on solid again Tuesday while his team utterly went through the motions for 40 minutes in the latest disgraceful performance that the Sabres fleeced their season ticket-holders to see.
Then a funny thing happened. The Sabres fed off the energy their goaltender provided when they should have been down about 5-1. And they pulled this one out in a shootout, 3-2, for their first home win of the year.
It boggles the mind to think the Sabres were in a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes even though the shots on goal were 30-7. Yes, 30-7. The final tally was 45-17. This one was all Miller.
When the season started, everyone would have said that Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick was the likely Team USA Olympic starter and Miller, at 33, was a longshot to make the roster.
But at this point, Quick and fellow candidates Craig Anderson, Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard don’t impress me. I want Miller in my net. Period.
You know plenty of important eyes not in First Niagara Center were trained on Miller vs. Quick, or will watch it on replay and then chat it up.
“There’s a fair amount of hockey left on that,” Miller said diplomatically. “Hopefully they’re just looking at the way they think you’re playing. I don’t know. It’s not really about making the team right now for me.”
While speaking to the Tampa Bay Times this week about Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, Nashville and Team USA General Manager David Poile indicated a player’s current performance is, in fact, more important than his Team USA resume.
While that seems to indicate Miller doesn’t get a call just because of all he did in Vancouver, Poile’s next statement certainly helped.
“Especially for goalies, we need guys who are playing well this year,” Poile said.
For his part, Miller kept coming back to this team, about how Tuesday’s game was simply a way to bounce back from that horrible four-goal first period Friday in Anaheim.
“It was coming off Anaheim making a statement coming back that I’m going to be a pro and rebound with these guys and help give them a chance to win,” he said. “They gave me a chance by putting some goals in there and finishing the shootout.”
Friday’s flop on the Duck Pond was the team’s ugliest of an ugly season. But you have to hand it to Miller. He’s played well most of the time. Very few bad goals. He’s also kept his emotions in check.
Miller is 3-11 this season after entering the season 51 games over .500. He’s never had a GAA over 3.00 either. But he can’t worry about brute numbers anymore.
“My job doesn’t change even if it’s fewer shots or more shots. The season is a nice way to remind me of what my job really is and how to handle myself,” Miller said.
“My job continues to be stop the puck no matter what the situation is during the game.”
You have to hope he holds up. Look what happened to Quick, down in a crumpled heap and unable to finish overtime. The sight of that alone should spook Darcy Regier to keep making the phone calls and get a deal done.
That seemed a little crazy at the start of the season. I’ve come around on the point with the Sabres just 1-15-1 in games not decided in shootouts. Miller gets hurt, he might walk this summer for nothing. And we all know how that has turned out.
Miller snapped a tie with Henrik Lundqvist for the most shootout wins in NHL history and improved to 46-27 in them. He’s 3-0 this year.
Once Quick went down, Miller vs. Ben Scrivens was no contest.
“It is all him,” said captain Steve Ott.
“He was solid. We know both of our goalies have been exceptional, our two best players. ... It was no Picasso, if you call the cliche, but Millsy was phenomenal.”
In one of the strangest games you’ll ever see. All him.